I love to walk. Wherever Lisa and I have been in our travels with her work – I have found some amazing places to hike. In Gettysburg I walked the battlefield almost daily. In Loma Linda, California I found walking among the palm trees and orange groves in the shadow of Big Bear Mountain to be the most picturesque hike of my life. Stone Mountain offered marvelous scenery and even Arizona’s desert had an appeal. Walking has been a good way to stay in shape and explore areas of God’s amazing earth that driving past in a car would have missed. Walking forces me to slow down and that can be a really good thing. Though arthritis in my left knee and some foot problems that need surgery have me limping some of the time – I walk on and have enjoyed every step along the way. Well – mostly.
Here in Cambridge Ohio I found a “Rails to Trails” six mile paved path called the “Great Guernsey Trail” situated just a couple miles outside town. I began walking the path about a week after we arrived and averaged about five miles per day after walking every morning and afternoon. The path is sandwiched between a rather large creek on one side and a large marshy area on the other that must be a favorite spot for duck hunters in the area. Cranes can be seen standing with their long legs in the shallow water and ducks and geese are prevalent. During my walks I have spotted numerous critters including deer, chipmunks, squirrels (some solid black), rabbits and beaver. Recently on a trip I noticed a black form about fifty yards ahead laying in the middle of the path and thought at first it was a limb that had fallen from the canopy of trees overhead. As I got closer I noticed it’s head start moving and at first glance thought I was looking at a very large snake. I slowed up and waited to see what the creature (whatever it was) would do and just as I got a little closer – noticed it begin moving off the path and that it was a very large turtle. A VERY large turtle.
Now let me explain something – I am a city boy – let me be clear about that. I love the outdoors and I have a fond appreciation for wildlife and God’s creations. But when it comes to being out in the wild – I would much prefer having electric fences, cages or glass enclosures separating me from them – especially things that slither. As I walked on – now wary of the possibility of these prehistoric looking turtles being in the grass beside the pathway I was walking – I realized I did not enjoy this walk nearly as much as I had five minutes before. After walking another quarter mile I again noticed something rustling in the grass beside the path ahead of me and eventually came upon the knarliest snapping turtle I had ever seen. Being just a couple feet from the thing as I passed – it seemed to be protecting the nesting area it had dug out. Geez! The thought occurred to me that I may need to start carrying a pistol or a harpoon on these walks.
I managed to get back to my truck without any violent encounters with the other snapping turtles I passed (and there were about five). My conclusion was they were coming up from the swamp and creek to lay eggs and were protecting their offspring. ‘Don’t worry Mommy (or Daddy) – you leave me alone and I will leave you alone’. In fact, you come after me and I am running. Now you may be laughing at the thought of being chased by a turtle. But I noticed one moving with incredible speed along the path at one point and as slow as I am – I’m not sure I could outrun it. No – let me take that back. If this hideous creature comes after me trying to snap my toe off – it ain’t gonna catch me.
The next day I again set out on the Great Guernsey Trail having regained my confidence after seeing a senior adult lady on a walker braving the journey. Surely if this poor thing can survive this Jurassic path – so can I. After again passing several snapping turtles I became more comfortable with my walk. Then the snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? As I walked along keeping one eye on the path and one on the mutated turtles, a man on a bike approached and warned me that a four foot long snake was laying off the side of the path just a few feet ahead of me. “Oh! Okay!”, I said nonchalantly as if I was kin to the crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, and handled snakes on a regular basis. He passed me – and I turned around and high tailed it the other way. I think I almost passed him on the path back to my truck. You would have thought I was watching a tennis match as my eyes scanned both sides of the path watching for the turtles from hell and four foot long snakes ready to attack. What’s next? A mountain lion? Black Panther? Charging Rhino? At one point an insect landed on the back of my leg and I almost crapped my pants. Get me the hell out of here!
I have now found another really good place to walk. It has really wide walkways, and plenty of things to see. I have to admit some of the creatures I have encountered there have been even uglier and scarier than those God-forsaken snapping turtles. But at least Wal-Mart has restrooms!
Take Care! Steve and Lisa